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HomeGambia NewsFreedom Newspaper’s gutsy and remorseless Pa Nderry Mbai.

Freedom Newspaper’s gutsy and remorseless Pa Nderry Mbai.

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I was invited to write a forward for the relaunching of Freedom Newspaper online, a paper that charted it’s way through the agony and confusion of Yahya Jammeh’s military regime. This is both an honor, and a daunting task. In a way, its has come full circle, for I was there with Pa in establishing Freedom Newspaper. For Pa Nderry Mbai was, in many ways, both agreeable and inflexible, a paradox he took to his grave. When Freedom Newspaper was launched in the early 2000s, few thought it would break through this new online platform of journalism, but Pa Nderry was able to master the art and science of the new media, and took it to greater heights. Freedom Newspaper’s extraordinary success in its decade and half of existence under Pa Nderry hinged on two things that Pa knew all too well, and exploited with instinctive gusto; that negative news sells, and breaking news has an addictive flair to it. In the beginning, Pa did his best to steer Freedom towards the goal of demonizing Yahya Jammeh with a view to break his stranglehold of the Gambian psyche, and with help from Gambians who supported his cause, Freedom slowly became a fascination that attracted Gambians’ attention. Until then, there were two proceeding Gambian online newspapers, and Pa vouched to make his paper the leader of the pack, and he succeeded with a few innovations, online radio being one of them. When Pa became the first to add online radio to his media platform, he knew he had hit gold. He frequently invited guests to discuss the situation in Gambia and with that Freedom became the go to platform in the discussions of issues pertinent to the effort of Yahya Jammeh removal from power. As someone who worked alone and preferred it that way, Pa gradually saw his newspaper decline, as his online radio supplanted it as the preferred medium for information dissemination.

Over the years, other Gambians concerned with the dictatorship back home, established several online newspapers. And because there were only so many Gambians to cater to in the public, Pa imagined the establishment of every new online media platform as a challenge that must be vanquished. He didn’t want others to steal this thunder, and understandably so, which often got him into heated arguments with several of his media competitors. Pa was very cognizant of Gambians appetite for gossip news and he did his utmost to provide it, which further enabled his Freedom media platform to stand out by consolidating its stranglehold among a broad segment of the listening public. If need be, Pa often threw the norms of journalism out the window if its what it took draw more audience to his platform, and he was unapologetic about it. Its no secret that Pa enjoyed the fame of his Freedom media platform, which he used for good as well as for questionable ends, and it was without doubt the most popular Gambian media platform. By the time of his passing, Pa was able to find the right combination between moderation and unflattering derision. Above all, the fall of Yahya Jammeh almost overnight wrecked the online diaspora media and Freedom media, like other platforms, suddenly became obsolete but only one other media platform seem to have seen the writing on the wall. Given the precipitous change following Yahya Jammeh’s expulsion from Gambia, Gainako media platform saw the need to adapt to the new circumstances and remain relevant. Pa’s ingenuity had failed him, or to put it in another another way, for once, Pa was paralyzed by lack of response to the new realities in Gambia. And freedom, like many other dictatorship era dissident media, was no longer able to overcome the new dispensation that Yahya Jammeh’s fall from grace had created. Until now. The relaunching of Freedom Newspaper, with all its history, is welcome. This is a new day and Freedom Newspaper will hopefully play its role in moving Gambia forward.

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